From Serbia, with love

It is Friday night at Carpatic Climbing Gym. Local team is getting ready to close the first day of registration for Balkan Bouldering Championship.

Without warning, 2 small cars from Serbia are parking outside and 3 children, 4 teenagers and 3 adults are getting down. It is the Spartak Subotica Climbing Team, after 10 hours of driving on the challenging Romanian roads.

They are looking tired and a bit stressed. The accommodation they arranged via Booking.com is not available anymore and they have no idea where they will spend the night.

They are lucky though. The local climbing team managed to arrange some decent accommodation in the old city in short notice.

Despite this hassle, next day they are obtaining very good results, Nora Bognar (17 years old) gets the second place at Youth A Female category and Maksim Purlija (9 years old) gets third place and Children 3 Male category.

Nori Bognar

These results are maybe not the most impressive thing about Spartak Subotica Climbing team. Not even their effort to bring 7 climbers across the border with a very limited budget, more climbers than other Romanian climbing teams brought to Bucharest.

But what we found fascinating is the training condition of the Serbian climbers. They reminded us of an old truth – in any sport the training facilities aren’t the key factor for success, but the spirit. Young climbers from Subotica are the living proof that if you are motivated you can get results without fancy climbing gyms.


Spartak Subotica Climbing Gym

Bellow you can find a short, but very interesting interview with Stella Purlija, mother of the youngest climbing team member.

Alex Codreanu (A.C.): Can you tell us in a few words the history of Spartak Subotica Climbing Team? How big is the team now and what are the team’s best results?

Stella Purlija (S.P.): The Spartak Subotica Climbing Team itself was founded in 2005, and still there are 2 of the founding members which are actively participating in the work of the climbing team.

At that time, there wasn’t much news regarding this sport, so Spartak was still not participating in the competitions. Afterwards, as sport has spread in Serbia, Spartak has joined the competition and has provided a strong field for other clubs ever since.

As we have limited place for trainings, we do not have a climbing room, we only operate in schools – so we can only deal with very small number of competitors, currently we have only 15 competitors from our club. Our boulder room for all of our members has only 45m2.

Despite of all this, we are one of the strongest clubs in Serbia, and at the international level our best results are the podiums at the Balkan Championships.


Spartak Subotica Climbing Gym

A.C.: What training facilities do you have? (Gym, personal equipment, climbing holds, etc)?

S.P.: Unfortunately, we do not have any expert trainers (in fact, there is no specialist in Serbia) from whom we can acquire knowledge, so we can only rely on the help from the enthusiastic parents who support us on a voluntary basis.

As mentioned above, we do not have separate climbing facility; we can only climb in schools, where we do not have a gym, just a place to climb.

Of course, we provide the necessary equipment, because safety is on the first place, and we get them all from abroad.

Unfortunately, we are struggling with holds, our financial resources are very limited, and we cannot keep in touch with new trends in the world, which makes it very difficult for our competitors (who are potential competitors on international level) who are seeing and touching those types of holds for the first time when they are in foreign countries on international competitions.

Used Climbing Shoes

A.C.: Who covers the cost of the training, gym, climbing trips, contests, etc? Are sponsors interested in financing climbing events?

S.P.: Everything including trainings, competitions, equipment, etc. we all pay by ourselves.

Our country is now beginning to recognize this sport, mostly thanks to a climber Staša Gejo, so that prominent members can benefit from scholarships as well as it is happening in other sports. As for our club, it is not sponsored by any company.

A.C.: How does Spartak Subotica Climbing Team fit among other climbing teams in Serbia?

S.P.: At first, our club was small and weak, because no one had taken control of the club, but in the last few years it has grown into one of Serbia’s strongest, most cohesive climbing team.

Training day

A.C.: Can you tell me a few things about the Serbian climbing community? I’m interested in knowing about the size of the community, interest in the different disciplines of the sport (bouldering, lead climbing, multi-pitch climbing), level of expertise, cohesion within the community(for example, the Romanian community is pretty divided, with lots of different opinions regarding competitive climbing, etc.)

S.P.: In Serbia, this is a very specific case because rock climbing (outdoor climbing) and indoor climbing are belonging to two separate alliances that share together the climbing society.

Our other big problem is that we can keep climbers only up to the age of 18 years because universities are redirecting them to other cities and countries.

A.C.: What are Spartak Subotica Climbing Team’s plans on short and medium term? (training strategies and facilities, attracting new climbers, competitional agenda, etc.)

S.P.: On the short term to expand our membership, to promote sports and to participate in as many international competitions as possible, and to catch up on the long term in world class.

Bouldering Day

A.C.: Can you make a comparison between climbing in Romania and Serbia? What are the strong points and the weak points of Romanian climbing community? What are the strong points and the weak points of Serbian climbing community?

S.P.: The Romanian climbing society itself is not very well-known to us, but as far as we have seen in competitions, their competitors are doing very well, achieving excellent results on international competitions, and there are few steps ahead of us. In any case, we would like to develop further relationships with the Romanian climbing clubs.

Our contact details are:

Andras Bognar, mobile: +381 64 3564801, Email: bognar.iren@gmail.com and suplaninari@gmail.com.

Serbian climbers have a great deal of togetherness within a club, and the love towards climbing takes them forward, but they don’t work closely with other teams, so it’s hard to create a Serbian representation with whom we can show up at international competitions.

A.C.: What do you think can be done to better promote climbing in Serbia?

S.P.: First of all, we should have regular and decent climbing facilities, holds, etc … and then what is also missing are the professionals, coaches, route setters, etc …

Finally, a unified representation should be created with regular representational trainings.


Maksim Purlija

A.C.: To end this up, what is your feedback on the Carpatic International Trophy? How we can improve in the future?

S.P.: The Carpatic International Trophy is evolving step by step and they are doing a good job in following the trends. This past competition was the best organized one. Every year, we see that they are evolving, innovating, the boulder room itself, as well as the holds that they are using.

We can’t give you advice, but we wish that they will do so every year and by doing so everything will be very good.

If you invite us, we will be more than happy to come, because we always leave with good experiences and memories.

It is our great dream to organize a Balkan championship and to host you in our tournament.

Home Made Hanging Board

A.C.: Thank you Stella for your kind words. We have a strong insight in Serbian Climbing world.

I think it is very useful for us to remember that shiny holds are not the secret for success, but motivation and dedication in training. Also, I think you pointed climbing community in the right direction, meaning in the quest for performance training and recovery know-how is the key factor, not the training facility.

At the end, but not least, I hope this dialog will open the communication between Romanian and Serbian climbing teams.  

S.P.: Thank you for the opportunity of this interview. I hope we will climb together soon!

May 10, 2019
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From Serbia, with love

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Romania, 6-Bucharest, 319A Splaiul Independenței 319A, inside Sema Park (Petrache Poenaru subway station)

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